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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The New "Super Drunk" Law Takes Effect this Halloween

This year, Halloween falls on a weekend.  If you are making party plans that include any heavy drinking, think twice before getting behind the wheel.

Persons caught operating a motor vehicle after bing-drinking, or with a high tolerance for alcohol, will face stiffer penalties beginning October 31, 2010.  If a driver's blood alcohol (BAC) is measured at more than .17 grams per 100 milliliters, (more than double the legal limit) then the new enhanced penalties will apply.

Those penalties include a one-year license suspension for first-time "super drunks"; an increase in the potential maximum jail sentence from 93-days to 180-days; higher fines; and mandatory use of an "ignition interlock" device.  The new law also features the longest alcohol rehabilitation treatment requirement on the books; one-year.

Once a conviction under this new law is abstracted to the Secretary of State, the driver's license will be suspended for one-year.  After a 45-day "hard suspension" where all driving privileges are suspended, a person can apply for restricted driving privileges for the balance of the year provided, however, that an " ignition interlock" device has been installed in the vehicle.  Under the old law, the hard suspension was only for 30-days and there was no interlock requirement.

Installing an interlock device will cost you about $50 and up to $100 per month to maintain.

Also, there are new penalties created under the Super Drunk law relative to operating an "interlocked" vehicle with a BAC of more than .025.  If a driver's probation is violated in this fashion, the Secretary of State will double the driver's license restriction by imposing a new 365-day suspension from the date of violation.

Beware if you lend your vehicle to a convicted Super Drunk on probation.  The new law requires impoundment and immobilization of any vehicle driven by a person under interlock restriction that is caught operating a vehicle without the device.  The owner of the vehicle is responsible for impoundment and storage costs.

Only time will tell whether this new law results in safer roadways.  There is no doubt that the tougher drunk driving laws implemented over the past 20-years have reduced (but not eliminated) drunk-driving related injuries and deaths.

One concern from within the trenches is how county prosecutors will use the new law in their charging decisions at district court.  Last year, the Oakland County Prosecutor stopped offering the lesser included offense of impaired driving to those charged with drunk driving.  This blog wonders whether a Super Drunk first offender will be offered a plea under the standard "Operating While Intoxicated" law, thereby avoiding the new interlock costs and restrictions as well as the other enhanced penalties.

If such plea reductions are not tendered under appropriate circumstances, the new law could result in many unnecessary jury trials.

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